Thai police have returned the bodies of two Cambodian police shot dead last week and pledged cooperation in investigating the killings, Cambodian officials said.
Police in Banteay Meanchey province will meet Tuesday with their counterparts in Thailand’s neighboring Sakaew province, where the shootings occurred a few hundred meters from the border, provincial police chief Sok Sareth said Sunday. The two men had crossed into Thailand illegally, he said.
Meanwhile, Thai police have apprehended at least one officer suspected in the killings, an Interior Ministry official in Phnom Penh said, though that report could not be confirmed Sunday.
“The Thais have arrested one man who shot at the police,” said Sok Phal, head of the ministry’s Central Department for National Security.
Thai authorities have reportedly said that Cambodian border police Mao Mai and Pin Samnang were armed and smuggling drugs when Thai police shot them dead March 22.
The Nation newspaper in Bangkok reported last week that the men were carrying a combined 12,000 amphetamine tablets and that the pair, along with a third suspect who escaped, exchanged fire with Thai police.
Officials in Banteay Meanchey, however, say the slain officers were unarmed and were trying to collect between $2,250 and $2,500 owed to them by Thai police.
“I don’t believe the men had anything to do with drugs,” said Sok Sareth, who previously said the officers might be involved in a cross-border sale of illegally felled timber. Sok Phal said a motive for the killings remained unclear Sunday. Thai authorities returned the bodies on Friday and invited a Cambodian delegation to talk with Sakaew police, officials said.
“The Thais claimed they are going to create a committee for investigating and finding justice for the Cambodian police,” said Sam Chith, Banteay Meanchey deputy provincial police chief. But “they refused to comment on why those police were shot dead.”
Sam Chith said Thai police made no mention of narcotics reportedly found on the bodies.
Police on both sides of the northwestern border commonly cross illegally into the neighboring country, officials said, and are widely believed to collude in smuggling schemes.